The saga of Armed forces Flag Day

Col Dr Virendra K Sahi
World over the Armed forces are held in high esteem. Successful leading nations maintain prestigious, efficient, well equipped and effective Armed Forces. While the governments do their best to uphold the image of their forces, the people at large feel indebted to the men in uniform and stay keen to observe a day to express their gratitude by observing a Flag Day in honour of those who sacrifice their ‘today’ to save the tomorrow for the nation. Collections are made voluntarily to augment facilities for the war widows, war wounded and rehabilitation of the wards of martyrs of brave warriors.
During the Pre-Independence days, collections used to be made from the public for the welfare of ex-servicemen on a special occasion on 11 November each year. This occasion was called “Remembrance day or “Poppy day”. Paper poppies were distributed to the public and donation collected. This used to be organized by the Ex-servicemen Association and the collections made were utilized for the benefit of the British Ex-servicemen. The Association had the discretion of donating part of these collections for the benefit of the Indian Ex-servicemen. In July, 1948, the Defence Minister’s committee decided that such collections should be organized for the benefit of serving defence personnel, Ex-servicemen and their families. It was finally decided on 28th August, 1949 to observe 7th December each year as the Flag Day.
The Armed Forces Flag Day or the Flag Day of India is a day dedicated to India towards collection of funds from people of India for the welfare of the Indian Armed Forces personnel. It has been observed annually in India on 7th December since 1949. Over the years, it has become a tradition to commemorate this day as an honour to the soldiers, airmen and sailors of India. Flag Day gains more significance as it considers that it is the responsibility of the civilian population of India to take care of the families and dependents of the armed forces personnel who fight for the country.
During the course of achieving victories, in the various wars the nation has fought and in combating the ongoing cross-border terrorism and insurgency, our Armed Forces have lost and continue to lose valuable lives as well as leaving quite a few disabled. The trauma that the family suffers on demise of the head of the family is hard to fathom. Those of our men who are disabled require care and rehabilitation so that they do not become a burden on their family and can instead lead a life of dignity. The requirement of keeping our Armed Forces young necessitates the release of our service personnel at 35-40 years of age when they are still young, physically fit and have qualities of discipline, drive and leadership. Every year about 60000 Defence personnel are compulsorily retired. Caring for these ex-soldiers and their families is therefore a national responsibility.
Many brave and gallant heroes from the Armed forces have laid down their lives in the service of the country. Ongoing counter-insurgency operations have also left many broken homes without a breadwinner. Flag Day brings to the forefront our obligation of looking after our disabled comrades-in-arms, widows and dependents of those who have sacrificed their lives for the country. It is for these reasons, we observe the Armed Forces Flag Day. On this day the services rendered by personnel of Army, Navy and Air Force are remembered. It is the collective duty of every citizen of our country to ensure rehabilitation and welfare of the dependents of our brave martyrs and disabled personnel. The Flag Day gives us an opportunity to contribute most generously to the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund.
The fund collection is managed throughout the country by the local arms of the Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB), which is part of the Ministry of Defence. The fund collection is organised both by official and non-official means through voluntary organisations. The Fund is operated by a Managing Committee presided over by the Defence Minister of India at the Centre and by the executive heads of the governments in the States and Union Territories.
It is a time for Indians to express its gratitude and appreciation to the current and veteran military personnel of India and to acknowledge those who died in service to the country. On the Flag Day all three branches of the Indian armed forces, the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, arrange a variety of shows, carnivals, dramas and other entertainment programmes to showcase to the general public the efforts of their personnel to ensure national security. Throughout the country small flags and car flags in red, deep blue and light blue colours representing the three services. The funds so collected are used for rehabilitation of battle casualties, welfare of serving personnel and their families, resettlement and welfare of ex-servicemen and their families.
Public Participation
Government measures at the Centre and the State level alone are inadequate to provide support to the disabled, non-pensioner, old and infirm ESM, their families, war widows and orphaned children. It, therefore, becomes the collective responsibility of each citizen to make his/her unstinted and voluntary contribution towards providing care, support, rehabilitation and financial help to them. Most of the nationalist commercial and corporate big business houses have funds allocated for this day and kept separate in their social welfare programmes.
Role of State Governments
The State governments have programmes dedicated to Flag Day collection of Funds and in conjunction with the ‘Rajya Sainik Board various programmes are organized on this day. Besides the each government organization collects nominal token funds from its employees. The Education department organizes similar fund collection through colleges, schools and students; Each District is given a target for collection and the same is monitored through the home department.
The dismal J&K Scenario
J&K State is one which has witnessed highest number of soldiers’ sacrifices since independence. Men from the whole country have been martyred here in very large numbers. Joining the Armed Forces is among a popular profession even among the J&K population and there is reckonable number of soldiers in the three services and para military forces from all three regions of the State Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Troops and Officers from JAK LI, JAK Rifles, Dogra Regiment and in various other Arms and Services have earned fame for their military values and acumen throughout the world including as part of UN forces. There is a prestigious record of gallantry award winners from the State with One Vitoria cross, One Param Vir Chakra, Two Ashok Chakra, Nine Maha Vir Chakra and 82 Vir Chakra and 553 Sena Medals. However it is sad that the per capita fund collection in J&K is the lowest in the country.
It is disgusting that in spite of clear government orders and fixed targets, only two Districts have notionally responded last year out of 22 Districts in the State. In the year 2015, the collection was a paltry sum of Rs 22, 530 as against 18.50 Lakh expected from all the 22 Districts. It is a sad reflection of the Government’s writ and the Civil Administration’s ungrateful attitude towards the services that they keep calling every now and then for assistance in calamities man made, natural disasters and law and order problems. Even earlier years in the past decades show a dismal scenario when not more than 4/6 Districts joined the noble cause. And they have all been getting away with it unquestioned under successive state governments staying moot; either toothless or not so well meaning about the implementation of their own orders. It may be of interest to readers that the soldiering states have annual collections like 2/3 Cr in Punjab and 45/55 Cr in Maharashtra with Haryana and Himachal not too far behind.


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